THE POWER OF QUESTIONS IN PEACEMAKING

20_questions_1954

This morning I shared with Nancy, my wife, my struggle over choosing a killer title for a prospective post.  After a brief pause, she said to me, “Babe, do you think it’s safe to go there?”

I’ve learned the hard way to listen up when my bride ventures her opinion. That writing idea went home to be with Jesus in a hurry.

However, our exchange got me thinking. My wife’s approach reminded me of one of the most effective strategies do-your-best peacemakers can employ for preserving unity at home, work, church, or anywhere for that matter.

I’m talking about the power of asking questions. King Solomon wrote, The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out (Prov. 20:5).

In all my years of doing peacemaking, I’ve never known any tool more effective for drawing out someone’s heart than that of asking skillful questions. When I wade into a conflict, inevitably I ask a ton of them.

Here are five categories of peacemaking power questions to make you a better guardian of oneness in all your relationships:

Category #1 EXAMINATION QUESTIONS

Many thanks to David Powlison at CCEF for his effective word picture for examining ourselves. In any peacemaking encounter you must start first with assessing your own motives. He lists a number of these in X-Ray Questions: Discerning Functional Gods.

My favorite? What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? Effective peacemakers remove any logs from their own eye before they ever attempt surgery on specks elsewhere (Matt. 7:3-5).

Category #2 COMMUNICATION QUESTIONS

We could cover a bunch of these. Let me give you my favorite. What did I miss? Around Orlando Grace Church our members hear me say this rather often: Never underestimate the capacity for communication to break down.

Humility dresses itself in the assumption that I may have somehow failed to get the right message (1 Pet. 5:5). Give that benefit of the doubt up front and watch peacemaking barriers fall.

Category #3 SUGGESTION QUESTIONS

These can take any number of forms depending upon the issue. The point is simple: instead of declaring a judgment, ask a question. My wife has mastered this art over the years. This morning she could have hammered me with, That’s a terrible idea!

But she would have accomplished only one thing—the opposite response she desired. Nancy ventured a question to engage me rather than put me on the defensive. Man, does it pay to marry a Matt. 10:16 woman!

Category #4 PERSUASION QUESTIONS

This may count as the money question for the peacemaking toolkit. I use it all the time. Help me understand your greatest concern about _____ ?

Just the other day it came in handy with my mom. We had locked horns over an issue for a while. After broaching the subject another time, I asked this very question with all the 5th commandment respect I could muster. I drilled down to the interest driving her position. She admitted it to me and we were off and running to a solution.

I have blogged about this essential aspect of peacemaking elsewhere. I cannot overstate the importance of its efficacy in reaching agreement with others when positions clash. Scuba dive beneath someone’s stance to discern their major interests.

Category #5 MEDIATION QUESTIONS

As with the other categories, questions helpful in assisted peacemaking take on many forms. One of my favorites resembles my persuasion question. In mediation I tweak it like this: What’s the worst thing that could happen if this deal doesn’t turn out in your favor?

James targets passions at war within us as the source of conflicts and quarrels (James 4:1). Wise mediators labor to dig deep into opponents to root out the heart idols stoking their passions.

Do you desire to excel as a preserver of peace in your relationships? Master the art of asking questions and watch your skills rise to a whole new level.

Question: What other questions have you discovered make you a better peacemaker? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Hopefully you and I are readers, period.

That assumed, it remains to examine one’s approach to reading.

Unlike TV or movies, you can’t really go passive in the discipline of reading, especially works of nonfiction. You have to engage.

Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren argue in their book How to Read a Book: the Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading that reading more actively vs. less actively makes for the better reader who actually demands something of himself as he reads. Therefore he earns a higher return on his investment as opposed to the more passive type that coasts through a book or article.

Nowhere does this show itself more plainly than in tackling the work of a more demanding author. Case in point? William Wilberforce and his Practical View of Christianity. I saw that deer-in-the-headlights look from some of our men at Saturday’s Oxford Club meeting as we tried to make sense of the introduction. I likened the book to treasure to be mined, not at six feet under, but more like 600 feet under. It won’t give way to its rewards without a lot of digging.

In the interest of warding off attrition in our club meetings and in promoting the virtue of reading in a demanding kind of way, I pulled Adler and Van Doren’s book from the shelf looking for help.

Perhaps more insight will come in further posts, but let me start here with their simple prescription for active reading: Ask questions while you read–questions that you yourself must try to answer in the course of reading. What questions, you may ask? They suggest the following:

There are four main questions you must ask about any book.
1. What is the book about as a whole? You must try to discover the leading theme of the book, and how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate themes or topics.
2. What is being said in detail, and how? You must try to discover the main ideas, assertions, and arguments that constitute the author’s particular message.
3. Is the book true, in whole or part? You cannot answer this question until you have answered the first two. You have to know what is being said before you can decide whether it is true or not When you understand a book, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the author’s mind is not enough.
4. What of it? If the book has given you information, you must ask about its significance. Why does the author think it is important to know these things? Is it important to you to know them? And if the book has not only informed you, but also enlightened you, it is necessary to seek further enlightenment by asking what else follows, what is further implied or suggested.

You don’t have to participate in the Oxford Club for Men to aspire toward becoming a demanding reader.

As for me and my house, the more demanding readers in our church, the better.